SLA Toronto’s “Legal Research from 20,000 Feet” workshop was an informative session with an engaging and entertaining speaker, which—I’m not afraid to admit—is an incredible bonus when attending a session on legal research. Wendy Reynolds, Manager of Library Client Services at the Ontario Legislative Library, provided her audience with an overview of the legal research terrain in Ontario. This included a quick refresher on the legislative process, a tour of some of the cheap and cheerful online resources, and important tips on research strategies.
e-Laws provides access to official copies and current consolidations of Ontario’s public statutes and regulations. It is updated continually but it includes only statutes enacted and regulations filed on or after January 1, 2000. Private statutes are not available in consolidated form.
Under the Bills & Lawmaking heading on the Ontario Legislative Assembly website one can search the past and present parliaments and bills, both public and private. There are also handy PDF refreshers explaining “How Bills become Law”.
CanLII, or Canadian Legal Information Institute, is a non-profit organization managed by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. Its goal is to make Canadian law accessible for free on the Internet. CanLII provides access to court judgments, tribunal decisions, statutes, and regulations from all Canadian jurisdictions.
Statues and regulations can also be located using commercial resources, such as Quicklaw and WestLaw.
Researching Tips & Tricks
Reynolds recommends starting research with secondary sources to understand the context and significance of laws. To best support clients, researchers need to identify three things:
1) Jurisdiction (Federal? Provincial?)
2) Dates (Does the client need the most current amendments? The status during a specific year?)
3) “Currency is key” (Are all amendments in force? Was the law overturned?)
Reynolds also concentrated on resources we could use to extend our understanding of legal research.
The Law Society of Upper Canada regulates, licenses, and disciplines Ontario’s 41,000 lawyers and 2,700 licensed paralegals. The Law Society’s Great Library has a bevy of legal research tools including video tutorial, how-to guides, and annotated links to other resources found under Research Guides.
— Kate Johnson
SLA Toronto Registrar, Information & Library Intern at The Martin Prosperity Institute and founder of TOR Info Events Google Calendar